Monthly Archive: May 2014

Tax Return Identity Theft

Submitted by Chris Moss CPA

Tax return identity theft is on the rise. Criminals illegally obtain your name and Social Security number, create phony W-2s and related forms, and file a bogus tax return before you can file your legitimate return. Many of these crooks are organized criminals who have figured out that it is easier to rip you off by filing a bogus tax return than robbing a bank or hijacking a car. These 21st century thugs are ripping off the US Government as well. Uncle Sam is losing millions of dollars if not potentially billions a year in bogus tax refunds and you the taxpayer are out in the cold if you are one of the unlucky taxpayers who get their identity stolen.

The typical identity theft scheme is for the perpetrator to file an early tax return with your social security number and your name but a different address around February through March up to the first week in April. The bogus tax return always shows a refund and is almost always mailed in to the IRS and not electronically filed. The mailing address on the tax return could be a PO Box or an executive office suite or any rented house. Sometimes the address could be an abandoned or foreclosed property where there is an outside mailbox or a mail slot in the door with no occupants to get the mail.

Here is how the scheme works: The refund check comes to the designated address and the mail is picked up by the perpetrator. The check is then either forged and cashed or deposited into a legitimate account but with a fictitious owner. There could be hundreds if not thousands of these refunds for hundreds of taxpayers from the same address to which the perpetrator has stolen identities from. Currently the IRS has absolutely no mechanism to detect such mass refund requests originating from the same address.

In addition the crooks know this crime must be a high volume scam to success. Criminals realize that many of their bogus tax returns will be delayed or questioned by the IRS. So when for example a few hundred of the refunds are received of the thousands of returns filed, the perpetrators close shop and move on. By the time the government investigates the crooks have moved on, new locations have been secured and the illegal operators get ready for the next year’s filing season to start the whole operation again.

How serious is tax return identity theft? The inspector general of the IRS indicate that bogus tax filings are in the millions with billions of dollars potentially at stake. A new proposed bill “Stop Identity Theft Act of 2013” calls for the Attorney General to: (1) make use of all existing resources of the Department of Justice (DOJ), including task forces, to bring more perpetrators of tax return identity theft to justice; and (2) take into account the need to concentrate efforts in areas of the country where the crime is most frequently reported, to coordinate with state and local authorities to prosecute and prevent such crime, and to protect vulnerable groups from becoming victims or otherwise being used in the offense.

What do I do for my clients? I am constantly on line with IRS Electronic Account Resolution (EAR) throughout tax season for all my clients. When I make an inquiry with the EAR portal prior to the tax return being filed, I get a zero transcript indicated no tax return has been received. When the response is like this one I know there has been identify theft: Dear Tax Professional, Your office submitted a request for taxpayer information. We apologize for the inconvenience but we are not able to process your request at this time. Please have your client contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) at 800-908-4490. Sincerely Yours Director, Electronic Products & Services Support

While I hope you never have to call the Identify Theft Department of the IRS, once you get a hold of them you realize the road ahead is not going to be easy. You are required to complete Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit and submit copies of various documents like a passport and drivers license proving you are who you say you are. All documents and original tax return have to be submitted in a paper version and mailed either snail mail or overnight delivery. Processing takes up to six months or longer.

What can you do right now for the 2014 tax filing season? First, file early in 2015. There is no better way to stop identity theft than to file early. Second, if you move, please notify the IRS of your new address. Call the government and make sure they have your new address on file before you file your tax return and explain that you are concerned about identify theft. Tell your CPA you are concerned about identify theft so your tax professional will check up on your account throughout the year. Never give your entire social security number to anyone on the phone. Vendors will be happy to have you call them back to verify who they are before you give them your social security number.

My thoughts on how to solve tax return identity theft? The IRS should not refund any money to anyone until the taxpayer’s identify is confirmed. This process would significantly delay you all from receiving your refunds. But when you compare the inconvenience of delayed refunds to the absolute nightmare of having your tax return hijacked by criminals I would choose the delay of having my identify confirmed. If you agree with this approach, let your elected officials hear from you about your concern with tax return identify theft. Together we can help the IRS fight back against tax return identity theft and help you all keep your tax returns secure from theft.

Look forward to seeing you all next month,
Kindest regards from Chris Moss CPA

Offshore Tax Shelters and the Breakdown of America

Submitted by Chris Moss CPA

Many of you have been perhaps curious as to why American based Pfizer Inc. is paying $100 billion to buy British rival AstraZeneca. Would you believe to save billions in taxes over many years to come? Yes, Pfizer, Brooklyn born and raised, the 165 year old maker of Lipitor, which by the way makes a ton of money off Medicaid and Medicare each year, somehow feels a patriotic duty to abandon the United States through what is called in “inversion” to legally house itself in another country. While the deal is far from done I believe there is something really creepy about a company that makes a ton of money off government programs that are funded with the very taxes that Pfizer is trying to avoid.

There’s more. America is not only being abandoned by big business but turns out now that the IRS believes that many of the 1% are moving money offshore You know the 1% of American taxpayers that supposedly support the rest of us? It is rumored that some of these taxpayers have not been paying their fair share of income tax on the earnings in foreign bank accounts like interest dividends, capital gains, royalties etc. Actually there are some who have never even paid tax on the principal generating these earnings. How easy is this to do? Since 1099s are not issued by foreign banks to American account holders it is very easy indeed for these taxpayers to give all their documentation to their CPA and get their taxes filed each year without ever paying a dime of tax on their foreign earnings.

How serious is off shore tax evasion? The stakes are high. It has been estimated that the U.S. Treasury loses as much as $100 billion annually to offshore tax non-compliance. So back in 2009 in an attempt by the US Government to stop this illegal tax evasion, Senator Max Baucus and Rep. Charles Rangel introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. The bill was signed into law on March 18, 2010. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions, including banks and mutual funds, to either collect and disclose data on American clients with foreign accounts holding of at least $50,000, or to withhold 30 percent of the dividend, interest and other payments due those clients and to send that money to the I.R.S. U.S. persons owning these foreign accounts or other specified financial assets must report them on a new Form 8938 which is filed with the person’s U.S. tax returns if the accounts are generally worth more than $50,000; Account holders would be subject to a 40% penalty on understatements of income in an undisclosed foreign bank account. So far so good. But powerful forces have delayed implementation of FATCA until July 1, 2014. Furthermore, in what the Wall Street Journal has reported “a victory for banks worried about the costs and possible disruptions to the financial system” the Treasury Department has decided not to enforce FATCA until 2016.

By the way, just so you know, I’m all for legally reducing taxes. That is what I do for living. I get paid to legally reduce taxes for my clients and I love doing what I do. But I also view my American citizenship as an honor and great privilege. All Americans and American business like Pfizer owe their success to the freedoms American enjoy, freedoms that millions have fought and died for over hundreds of years. Whether legally as Pfizer has done, or illegally as other individual taxpayers have done, it seems to me like a rather unpatriotic thing to do to move money off shore solely to save taxes. My view is that the only winners in the delay of enforcement of FATCA are the big banks, big business, big law firms big accounting firms and the top 1% of Americans taxpayers.

There is still time to do the right thing America. If you don’t like the tax system, tell your elected officials to abolish the IRS with its outdated archaic 100 year old income tax with thousands of pages of insane regulations. Let’s replace the income tax with a 21st century 10% National Federal Sales Tax on all purchases including all internet purchases. Until then let’s try to keep our money and jobs here in the USA and work within our borders to make America a great blessing to our kids and for many generations ahead. God bless America and see you all next month. Kindest regards Chris Moss CPA